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Roving through Karachi: one lens at a time

Roving through Karachi: one lens at a time

KARACHI: This city is no stranger to excellent photographers and many of its famous buildings have attracted professional lensmen. However, the exhibition ‘I am Karachi Museum’ held at the Alliance Francaise presented different angles of the city saved in a photograph taken by amateur photographers from all corners of the city. While Karachi has been photographed by renowned photographers, it was perhaps the first time when dwellers from all backgrounds came together to capture stories of the people living in the city.

A joint effort of The School of Writing and I am Karachi movement, the exhibition was attended by people from all groups with most of the employees placing bets to spot the place in the photo, with one of them losing the wager after failing to recognise the famous food joint in his own area.

Going through the photographs taken by amateur photographers, it was hard to decipher if it had been taken from a DSLR camera or a simple digital one.

Mohsin Tejani from The School of Writing explained the initiative as well the problems faced along the way: “It all started five years ago with a project named Memoirs of a City: Creating a Travelogue in which we took students to different places and it was a one-day event where we took them to popular spots like Mohatta Palace or Frere Hall. But we realised that Karachi wasn’t solely about these places and we wanted to focus all six districts of Karachi namely, Korangi, Malir, East, West, Central and South by publishing their stories. We planned the event and chose about 320 participants from six districts and decided to exhibit their photographs as well as publish their stories.

“We did face many difficulties such as procedure of selection of participants and time constraints but we managed to spread the word through social media and announcements. At the beginning some of them were laidback but many of them were enthusiastic and were willing to learn. They were also assuming that we’d only take them to places such as the Quaid’s Mausoleum or Sea View so it was a little hard to convince them to capture photos from their own areas.”

He added that they received an overwhelming response by the participants as they received around 70,000 entries and possibly one of the reasons why there weren’t any captions or photographer’s name alongside the work.

Danial Shah, photographer-cum-instructor, who led the teams in West and Malir districts also pointed out that owing to the number of participants it wasn’t feasible to provide cameras to all of them: “Many participants shared the camera and so it wasn’t easy to document the pictures for the exhibition. However, when we publish their work, it will have captions as well as photo credits.”

Speaking about the diverse backgrounds of the participants, Shah added that there were some people who hadn’t operated cameras before: “We did come across some participants who didn’t know the basics as well as those who knew about the technical aspects so we made sure that those who had the know-how would help others instead.”

The programme which also featured public readings was attended by two people on whom the story was based including an ailing caretaker of the Hanuman Mandir named Ganga Bai. Vijay Maharaj, a priest at Darya Lal Mandir, said he was glad to see an event which brings communities closer.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2015

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